Warehouse ImprovementsSteve Cappella
The constant demand for variety by consumers today continue to drive SKU growth in all distribution industries.
The impact on the beverage industry is profound – not only because of SKU growth but because of variables such as seasonality and fluctuation of brand popularity.
Six Easy- to-Implement Warehouse Improvements
METHOD 1 – Proper Product and Storage System Slotting
A symptom of improper slotting is the extensive travel in a pick area: too much replenishment or multiple handling of picked products on a pallet. Additionally, if storage bin openings are too big or too small, the facility could be using too much space, which can create excessive replenishment.
Proper location slotting of each item in a warehouse is critical to optimum productivity and storage capacity. Slotting is defined as the best “potential X and Y location” of an item based upon its velocity or movement, weight and cube for stacking, and size of location to ensure optimum put away, replenishment and picking.
A slot analysis can be a simple or complex process depending on the quantity of SKUs. The best initial approach is to generate a list of items by sales volume, size, weight and storage requirement, then evaluate where these items should be placed within a warehouse and the types of bin or floor storage used for each item.
Once this analysis is complete, the goal is to optimize the storage mediums and pick path flow to match the demands of the product parameters. The result: better slot sizes and product locations within the existing warehouse and high productivity with reduced travel, better product stacking and less replenishment.
METHOD 2 – Measuring Results
Accountability and measuring results of warehouse operations are critical to enhancing and improving productivity. Often, the focus is to get it in and out of the dock and get through the shift. When asked how many cases per man hour each laborer picks or how many pallets per hour a put away operator moves, the common response is “we don’t measure that”.
When asked how many receiving and picking errors per operator, per shift or per order, again this typically isn’t measured effectively. By measuring results per operator and per shift, warehouse managers can quickly identify and create accountability for warehouse personnel to ensure that the work flows are even and order accuracy is maintained.
There are many cost effective methods for these measurements, such as assigning a complete order to each order selector and then sort the orders for the shift compared to hours worked. This method can also create accountability for the order selector when an error occurs.
This method may seem punitive, but ensuring that order selectors maintain not only productivity but accuracy is critical to maintaining customer service. In larger operations using a WMS with either scanners or voice systems, they can automatically track these measurements in real time. Voice seems to be the most popular to ensure that order selectors can pick orders hands-free. Scanners are still most commonly used for put away and receiving.
METHOD 3 – Proper Warehouse Location Labels and Signage
Using easy-to-read and organized location labels within the pick path and floor stack areas of a warehouse can help keep both the operators and products organized. Additionally, aisle and dock signage can greatly improve the flow of traffic within a warehouse environment. Warehouse labels and signage should be designed to allow for a linear flow from the dock to the pick area and back to the dock. The labeling sequence should be intuitive and expandable in the case of adding more slots or storage system re-configurations. The labels should be both bar code and man readable. Even though you may not scan labels currently, having this feature available on the labels will save some rework later. Also, for future voice pick considerations, the labels should include check digits which validate the proper location during picking.
Floor stack and dock door location hanging signs are a great solution to keeping track of inventory, organizing floor stacks and routing picked orders to the proper dock location. Learn more about the Importance of Warehouse Labels.
METHOD 4 – House Keeping
Although maintaining a clean and organized warehouse seems to be obvious, creating a work-efficient environment displays a true pride of ownership. A simple fix such as adding hanging trash cans to the end of pick aisles can help reduce the build-up of wood chips and stretch wrapping materials that can get caught up in forklift or pallet jack wheels. Management should enforce cleanliness and good house-keeping practices through leading by example.
METHOD 5 – Proper Lighting
Warehouse lighting systems have greatly improved over the past 3-5 years. LED energy-efficient lighting is cost effective and in many cases energy companies offer rebates for retrofitting existing lighting. Improving overall lighting for reserve, pick and dock areas can have a profound effect on overall accuracy, personnel morale and energy costs. Many of the new lighting systems even include sensors for lighting areas that are triggered by movement.
METHOD 6 – Storage System Reconfiguration
As warehouse storage demands change, staying with the most current storage system layout may actually be reducing productivity. In many cases, location levels can be altered, aisles can be reduced or storage mediums can be modified to provide the best openings for your products. By using your existing storage system and adding more beams or better storage mediums, these projects can be cost-effective and provide the best return on investment.
In these times, when companies are trying to “Do More with Less”, reviewing your operation for cost effective warehouse improvements is the first step to increasing storage capacity and productivity. Learn more about Warehouse Improvements Services.